What Is A Separated Life? - Part II
Dr. Joe Temple

Separation from Saints

This is one in a series of discussions we have been following for quite some time, a series on Simple Questions Often Asked . Many times we are asked very simple questions which deal with profound things, and the answer cannot be given if a few words. One of the questions we are often asked is , “What is a separated life?”, or “What is a separated Christian?”

We dealt with the beginning of that last week by saying to you that many people approaching it from a human standpoint say that a separated Christian is an individual who is not involved in the things of the world as they are described in chapter 2 of the first epistle of John. We said that a worldly Christian, according to the human approach, is an individual who is involved in the things of the world to a greater or lesser extent. But we approached the matter from a Scriptural standpoint as well as the human, and in so doing, we discovered that the Bible does not discuss separation primarily in relation to things. Rather, the Bible discusses separation on the basis of areas of separation in which the Christian should be interested.

Last week we discussed with you one of the areas of separation. We examined II Corinthians, chapter 6, as a basis for that discussion. We said that we would discuss with you the other areas of separation which are spoken of in the Scripture.

We come now to another such area in our discussion. In order to fix it firmly in your minds, we are going to suggest that our discussion will revolve around separation from saints. Yes, you and I as believers, are commanded (and I would like to emphasize that word commanded to separate ourselves from other Christians under certain given conditions. That may sound like a strange thing to say, but I don't want you to tune me out until you have heard what the Word of God has to say. I emphasize again, so that we will know what we are thinking about, that the Bible commands separation from saints under certain conditions.

Conditions Requiring Such Separation

Open your Bibles, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 5:

I Corinthians 5:

1It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.
2And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
3For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,
4In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
6Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
11But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
13But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

/Separation from Immoral Christians

We will look at this Scripture more in detail in a moment. But if I were going to sum it up, I would say that this passage of Scripture teaches us that separation is demanded (listen carefully) from immoral saints, immoral Christians—Christians who are living immoral lives. God said that other Christians ought to separate themselves from them.

Separation from Insubordinate Christians

Turn with me to the second Thessalonian letter, chapter 3. In this passage of Scripture, we are going to find another area of separation which is demanded in relation to the saints of God. Notice verse 6:

II Thessalonians 3:

6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
7For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
8Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:
9Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
10For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should eat.
11For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
12Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
13But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
14And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
15Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Notice particularly verse 6:

II Thessalonians 3:

6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

And again, verse 14:

II Thessalonians 3:

14And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

If I were going to sum up this passage of Scripture in a very few words, I would say that in the area of separation from saints, we are commanded to separate ourselves from irregular or insubordinate Christians. We are talking about separation in the area of Christian fellowship. We are saying to you that the Bible tells us that you, as a Christian, have a responsibility to separate yourself from another Christian who is living an irregular life or a life which is insubordinate—not obedient—to the Word of God.

Keep in mind as we pursue our discussion that this is not something that I think. This is not a peculiar interpretation of mine. This is the simple Word of God. If you think these demands are too strict, if you think they are unreasonable, don't tell me about it. Your argument is with the Word of God, unless you find another way to understand what this passage of Scripture teaches.

Conditions in the Corinthian Church

Let us go back to I Corinthians, chapter 5, so that we will know what we are talking about when we say that separation is demanded from Christians who are living immoral lives. This Corinthian church had been tolerating with unconcern a certain sinful condition within their midst. Paul had warned them that that ought not to be their attitude because if they continued to tolerate it, everyone would be involved in it as leaven placed in a lump of dough soon permeates the entire lump of dough.

In verses 4 and 5, he presents the responsibility of the church in relation to this individual. I know of nothing that is more difficult to exercise than church discipline. I know of nothing that needs to be done with greater care and understanding than church discipline. In these days of apostasy, when so many have departed from the truth, I seriously question the wisdom of any local assembly exercising church discipline in the manner described in the Scripture. Certainly, if it is going to be exercised, it needs to be exercised by those individuals who are absolutely above reproach. If you know any such, I would like to become acquainted with them.

Responsibility of the Individual Believer

Further down in the paragraph, the responsibility is moved from the local assembly to the individual believer, so that in verse 11, the responsibility is placed squarely on the individual. The Apostle said:

I Corinthians 5:

11But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

We need to approach this matter very carefully. Paul has said in the previous verse that he was not talking about the unsaved—those who have made no profession of faith in Christ. You need to associate with them to a certain extent if you are going to win them to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is talking here about a man who is called a brother—a man who is a Christian. If there is such an individual living in the manner described, then you have a responsibility to separate yourself from him.

Professing Christians

But here again we need to approach the matter very carefully. We need to recognize that the validity of this man's experience is called into question. It is very possible that he is not even a born-again believer, though he professes to be one. In order to emphasize this, Weymouth suggests that the translation should be, “bearing the name of a Christian.” If a man who bears the name of a Christian is living such a life, separate yourself from him. Phillips emphasizes the questionable validity of the experience by translating, “If the man is a professing Christian, then separate yourself from him.”

That is a good suggestion to keep in mind because if you look at verse 11 again, Paul said, “But now I have written unto you not keep company, if any man that is called a brother…” The word called is the translation of the Greek word onomazo , which is translated in other places in the Scripture by the word profess . The suggestion is that the person may not be a born-again believer. He may just claim to be a Christian. He may be what we would call today just a church member without an experience of grace in his heart.

If such be the case, then you would want to present the claims of Christ to him because perhaps the reason that he is in the trouble that he is in is that he is trying to live a Christian life in the energy of the flesh, which simply cannot be done. Naturally he would have many things wrong with his experience.

Weak Christians

Let me emphasize one other thing because this matter of separation is a very delicate thing. You need to be sure, before you enter into this matter of separation, that the individual in question is not a person who falls into these sins only occasionally. He may be a born-again believer, but he may be a weak Christian. He may fall into these sins, and as soon as he does, his heart is grieved, and immediately he turns to the Lord on the basis of I John, chapter 1, verse 9, acknowledges his sin, and accepts the restoration which God so graciously grants. Such an individual may fall into sin so often that it would seem that he lives that way all the time. So you see, it takes a great deal of wisdom, it takes a great deal of spiritual understanding, to know when to exercise this obligation for separation.

Attitude of the Immoral Christian

The individual Christian from whom you should separate yourself, if he is living an immoral life, is the Christian who is living such a life with absolute unconcern. He does not care what you think. He does not care what God thinks. He is not concerned about having a clear testimony for Christ. He does what he wants to do, and he shrugs his shoulders and says,“What business is it of yours or anyone else's?” That is the Christian, the immoral Christian, from whom you should separate yourself.

Sins of Immorality

Look at I Corinthians, chapter 5, again and recognize that even though fornication is the first sin mentioned in the list, it is by no means the only sin which describes an immoral person. Notice: fornicator, covetous, idolater, railer, drunkard, extortioner. Now, a fornicator is an immoral person sexually inclined. A covetous person is a greedy person—a swindler in modern terms. The idolater is described as one whose soul is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God. I want to pause long enough for that to sink in because all too often when we speak of an idolater, we speak of a person who has a little image before him which he bows down to in an act of adoration and worship; yet an idolater is defined as an individual whose soul is devoted to any object which usurps the place of God. Such objects would be too numerous for me to mention. A railer is described as an individual who has a foul tongue, not only a foul tongue in relation to profanity, but a foul tongue which is given consistently to saying things unkind, untrue, and unreasonable about other people. The drunkard needs no explanation; you are familiar with that type of individual. The extortioner is described as a grasping man. The word can even be translated by the word thief . This is the kind of Christian from whom you should separate yourself as a believer who is walking according to the direction of the Holy Spirit.

The Character of Our Separation

I would like to ask another question and propose the answer before we leave I Corinthians, chapter 5, and that question is, “What is the character of separation that is involved in this kind of thing?” You say that you are going to separate yourself from a person. What form does your separation take? Do you go around with your nose as high in the air as you can get it, acting as if everybody that you know smells bad? What is the character of separation that you should follow? Let us notice what is recorded in verse 11:

I Corinthians 5:

11But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator,…

Refuse Close Association with Offender

These words, “keep company,” are the translation of a Greek word that very literally means “don't get mixed up with” people like the folk Paul has been talking about. I have said to you any number of times that I am always impressed by the up-to-dateness of the Scripture in relation to our colloquial expressions. I don't know how many times my wife and I have said to our children, “We don't want you to get mixed up with that thing.” We may be talking about an event, we may be talking about a program: “Don't get mixed up in it, now.” Or, if there is some relationship with an individual who we believe would be detrimental to their spiritual growth, we say to them, “Don't get mixed up with that person. It won't do any good. It will only cause trouble. Don't get mixed up with him.” What happens? They don't associate with him. They don't go to the places he goes. They don't do the things he does. They don't have any contact with him. It doesn't mean that if he had a flat tire, they wouldn't help him fix the tire. It simply means they don't get mixed up with him. That is the character of separation that is described in this portion of the Word.

Shun Social Contacts with Offender

There is another suggestion in verse 11. Notice the last part of the verse , “with such an one no not to eat.” That is an interesting phrase, isn't it? What does it mean? Don't eat with such a person as that. Some folk say you shouldn't take the Lord's Supper with folk like that, but neither the original language nor the context will bear out such an interpretation. This word for eat in the original Greek is not the ordinary word for eat . It is a word which speaks of having social contact with such individuals. As a matter of fact, Phillips translates this particular verse, “Don't even eat lunch with a person like that.” That is as plain as I can make it. If there is a believer who is living an immoral life, absolutely unconcerned about it, you, as a Christian, should not keep company with such a person. You should not even eat lunch with him. You should separate yourself from him.

Withdraw from Insubordinate Christians

Go with me, please, to II Thessalonians, chapter 3, and notice the other kind of Christian to whom I have referred. I have referred to him an an irregular or insubordinate Christian. This irregular or insubordinate Christian might not be immoral. Let us get that fixed firmly in our minds. He may not be immoral. He may be a moral person, but he is walking irregularly. He is walking in disobedience to the Word of God. That is brought to our attention in verse 6 of II Thessalonians, chapter 3:

II Thessalonians 3:

6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

A brother is walking disorderly, irregularly. “Paul, what do you mean?” “I mean,” said the Apostle Paul, “that he is not obeying the Word of God which I handed down to you all.” The word tradition means simply, “that which is handed down.” Tradition may be the Word of God; it may not be the Word of God. This has to be interpreted in the light of the context. But in this instance, we know that it is the Word of God by glancing at verse 14:

II Thessalonians 3:

14And if any man obey not our word by this epistle,…

This Thessalonian letter is the Word of God, and Paul said, “If any man does not obey the Word of God, then don't keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Now, listen carefully, for here again a great deal of wisdom is needed; the delicacy of separation is something to consider. We are not talking about people who are not walking according to the Word of God because they don't know it. We are not talking about people who are not walking in the light which they don't have. We are talking about individuals to whom the truth of the Word of God has been presented, and the individual has said, “I don't care if God's Word says it; I am still going to do it.” That individual is the individual from whom you should separate yourself.

Importance of Seemingly Little Things

Listen carefully. Do you recognize that this passage of Scripture is not talking primarily abut big things? If we were talking about some sin that everyone thinks is big, although in God's sight all sins are the same, and a fellow says, “I don't care. I am not going to do it.”, we might get real concerned. But do you know the insubordination with which Paul was dealing in this second Thessalonian letter? Do you realize what it was? It was an insubordination to the Word of God that is so insignificant to our way of thinking that in our day we even aid and abet it. Look at verse 11, where the apostle describes the kind of insubordination he is talking about:

II Thessalonians 3:

11For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly this is, insubordinate, working not at all, but are busybodies.

Here are individuals who would not hold down a job that paid them a living wage. There was a particular thing to be considered, but the principle is here. The early church tried an experiment where they had all things in common. They all worked hard. They put all their money in a common treasury, and they lived in a communal relationship where everyone shared in what everyone else had. But in that day, as in this day, there were some leeches, and these fellows said, “What is the point in our working? We get three meals a day. Why work at all?”, so they didn't.

Our Duty to Work

Someone said, “Paul said everyone ought to work.” They said, “We don't care what he said. We are getting fed, aren't we? Why worry about what the Word of God says? We are getting fed.” They were not only getting fed, but will you notice what God said about them? He said they were busybodies. Do you know what that word busybodies means? It is the translation of a Greek word which reminds me of our modern protesters. They went about stirring up trouble; instead of working, they went about stirring up trouble. But God says to every Christian, “If there is a Christian who refuses to work and make his own living, then you as a believer should have nothing to do with him.”

Those Who Refuse to Work

Now, wait just a minute! There may be a believer who can't work for any number of reasons. He may not be physically able to work. He may not be able to find a job that he can do. What are you supposed to do as a Christian? You are supposed to take him into your home, and you are supposed to feed him, and you are supposed to clothe him, and you are supposed to take care of him until he can find work. But if there is a believer who can work and won't do it, you ought not to take up an offering for him. You ought not even give him a dime to help buy a pack of cigarettes. You ought to walk by and have nothing to do with him; this is your obligation as a child of God.

That sounds a little strange in this day in which we live, doesn't it, when we are told that Christians have the responsibility of feeding the whole world? God says, “You as a Christian have a responsibility of separating yourself from individuals who are insubordinate to the Word of God.”

Withdraw Yourselves

How are you going to separate yourselves from such an individual as this? Look at II Thessalonians, chapter 3, with me again and notice verse 6:

II Thessalonians 3:

6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

Look at verse 14:

II Thessalonians 3:

14And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

“Have no company” is the same word that is used in I Corinthians, chapter 5: “Don't get mixed up with him. This word withdraw yourselves in verse 6 is a nautical term. It is the translation of a Greek word which means “to shorten the sail.” Here you are, sailing side by side with someone, and you notice that something is wrong with him. What do you do? You draw in the sail a little bit. You slow up. You look at him and you say, “What is wrong?” Then if you discover that it is in line with deliberate disobedience to God, you don't sail in the same track with him. You hold back, if you have to. You refuse to keep company with such an individual.

Purpose of Separation

What is the cause for some demands for separation? What is the purpose of them? What is to be accomplished? Is it just so you can get together with a little group of people all by yourselves and say, “We are better than every one else, you know?” I am talking about individual separation. What is the reason for such separation? Notice verse 14 again:

II Thessalonians 3:

14And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

That is the reason. Why do you separate yourself from a believer who is living in disobedience to the Word of God? So that he may be ashamed. This word “ashamed” is the translation of a word that speaks of causing the individual to turn his thought toward himself. It is not just so you can make him feel bad. It is so you will cause him to stop and think and examine his ways and see why things are as they are. As long as you and I as believers endorse what other believers do when it is contrary to the Word of God, they will never consider that what they are doing could be wrong. But if you and I as believers will not endorse disobedience to the Word of God, the Spirit of God says the individual will be ashamed. He will begin to think about what he is doing, and will realize that he ought not to be doing it.

Admonish Him as a Brother

I would have you notice another verse because it helps you to know the purpose of separation:

II Thessalonians 3:

15Yet count him not as an enemy,…

The word count is a word that elsewhere in the Scripture is translated by the word judge. It is not up to you to pass sentence upon him. It is not up to you to judge him as an enemy of the Cross of Christ; rather, you shorten sail. You don't get mixed up with him, in order that you (notice verse 15) may admonish him as a brother. The word admonish means “to speak gently to him.” You don't go to him with your nose in the air and say, “Oh, I wouldn't do what you are doing. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.” You go to him with a heart filled with the love of God, and you say, “Friend, I love the Lord. You love the Lord. Have you ever stopped to think that what you are doing is hurting a lot of people? Have you ever stopped to think that what you are doing is bringing reproach upon the Cross of Christ?” As the Holy Spirit of God loves that man through you, your separation will become effective.

Deliver Unto Satan

Go back with me to I Corinthians, chapter 5, for a last suggestion about the reason for this separation. Notice in verse 4:

I Corinthians 5:

4In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

If the individual is a believer, his spirit, his soul, is going to be saved; but the reason you withdrew fellowship from him is for the destruction of the flesh. What does that mean? Some people think it means that you withdraw from him, turn him over to the Devil, and God will chasten him by letting some horrible physical disease grip his body, or maybe even kill him.

We know that the Bible teaches that God chastens oftentimes by chastening the body. But I am inclined to think, in the light of the context, that what this phrase means is that you withdraw from fellowship from him so that the flesh, that old carnal spirit, may be destroyed—that is, that a victory may be won over it. One of the ways of curing people from drinking is to administer certain things to them so they get sick when they even think about drinking. This is the spirit of the text. Separate yourself from this individual. Say to him in so many words, “Now, I am not going to have any part nor lot in it. I am going to pray that God will make you so sick of the whole thing that you will be able to lay it all aside, so you will be able to live at the direction of the Spirit of God.

Conclusion

We emphasize: What is a separated life? A separated life is not related to things. It is related to areas of separation. An individual who is going to live a separated life will find it necessary at times to separate himself from sinners and sinful things. He will find it necessary at times to separate himself from saints who are immoral and insubordinate as far as the Word of God is concerned. Let us ask God for wisdom. Let us ask God for grace to be a separated Christian in the light of God's Word.


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